Chapter

Preconditions for the evolution of protolanguages

Merlin Donald

in The Descent of Mind

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780192632593
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191670497 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780192632593.003.0008
Preconditions for the evolution of protolanguages

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This chapter assumes that the evolution of language, like all other aspects of life, must have been subject to the laws of natural selection, and that its emergence must therefore have been a continuous process. The term ‘protolanguage’ has been used as a label for the earliest form that ‘true’ language must have taken. A protolanguage is thus a prototype, an approximation of the finished product that contains some of the essential features of language, and that could later have evolved into a fully-fledged language. Derek Bickerton proposed a specific of this phenomenon. He argues that protolanguage must resemble pidgins, which are very much like the language of two-year-old children. He locates protolanguage far back in hominid evolution, with the earliest members of species Homo, who lived in Africa two million years ago. In line with this theory, he argues that grammars came later in hominid evolution, with Homo sapiens.

Keywords: evolution; language; natural selection; protolanguage; prototype; Derek Bickerton; pidgins; hominid; grammars; Homo sapiens

Chapter.  8429 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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